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12/01/2012

McDowell maintains lead with bogey-free 68

Northern Irishman takes two-shot advantage into final 18 holes at Sherwood
Graeme McDowell has played Sherwood's par-3s in 5-under this week. Tiger Woods Foundation Graeme McDowell has played Sherwood's par-3s in 5-under this week.

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. -- Graeme McDowell continued his sterling play Saturday by firing a bogey-free, 4-under-par 68 at rainy Sherwood Country Club and will take a two-stroke advantage into the final round of the World Challenge presented by Northwestern Mutual.

The Northern Irishman has a three-round score of 13-under 203, two strokes better than Keegan Bradley, who matched Bubba Watson for the best round of the day with a 67. Tournament host and defending champion Tiger Woods is tied for third with Bo Van Pelt at 208.

"I played very solidly again today," McDowell said. "Bogey-free is always nice on any course."

McDowell has done much of his damage on the par-3s, taming them in a combined 5-under par, easily the best of the elite 18-player field.

After struggling with his putter most of the year, McDowell has regained his touch at Sherwood. He holed two long birdie putts Saturday.

Winner of the 2010 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, McDowell birdied the second, fourth and ninth holes to make the turn in 3-under 33. He registered his only back-nine birdie at the par-5 11th hole and shot 35 coming in.

"It would have been nice to pick up a few more on the way in, I guess, finishing with seven straight pars when there are some chances out there," McDowell said. "I played disciplined golf to some of those tight pins and couldn't seem to get anything to drop, but two shots ahead going into Sunday, I'll take that any week, anywhere, any time."

While McDowell looks like the player to beat, his last worldwide victory came at the 2010 World Challenge, where he birdied the first hole of a sudden-death playoff to beat Woods. In addition, only once in the last eight years has the 54-hole leader gone on to win the World Challenge.

McDowell will play in the final twosome Sunday with Bradley. They will tee off at 10:58 a.m. local time.